A-Rod denies plea deal with league, focuses on his 'A-game' instead
CNN — New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez denies any plea negotiations with Major League Baseball for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, he told CNN's Jason Carroll this week.
"Well, I don't think there's anything that's going on right now, and that's as far as I'm going to take it," Rodriguez said. "I think it's important that we have a process. I think we have a good system with Major League Baseball. And let's let the process play out."
Rodriguez spoke with CNN Tuesday on the eve of his pending return to the Yankees lineup after off-season surgery. He talked of his love for the game that's been "the greatest gift" and how he needs his fans more than ever as he turns 38 this month.
Rodriguez's representatives have reportedly been negotiating a deal with the league to reduce a possible 100-game suspension for alleged performance-enhancing drug use, according to some media accounts. Those allegations claim Rodriguez had ties with the now-closed anti-aging Biogenesis clinic in Florida and its founder, Anthony Bosch.
Rodriguez is one of some 20 players who could face suspension as a result of the scandal.
But Rodriguez declined to address whether he would fight a long suspension or other adverse decision if one is so issued by the Yankees or the league.
"You know, I'd just rather not get into any of that right now. It's premature, and we'll let the process play out. That's my responsibility right now," Rodriguez said.
Such a roiling controversy would be hard on any athlete's concentration, and if the speculation of a possible career-ending suspension is making life more difficult for Rodriguez -- who's still working his way back into the Yankees lineup after off-season surgery -- he isn't directly saying so.
What Rodriguez does acknowledge is that he needs to connect better with his fans in what could be the final chapters of his playing career.
Rodriguez is regarded by some as the greatest slugger in baseball or the greatest third-baseman, but here's something no one can dispute: He holds the largest contract ever in American sports, signed with the Yankees in 2007 awarding him $275 million over 10 years. Critics, however, say it's the worst contract ever because of problems with his health and on-field performance.
Today, Rodriguez admits he doesn't have many years left on the diamond: He turns 38 on July 27, and he is now testing his recovery from hip surgery in January by playing in the minor leagues.
The three-time American League MVP described the operation as "definitely the hardest surgery I've had to overcome."
"Look, there's no hiding it. I'm not a spring chicken anymore. I'm not 28. I'm going to be 38 here in July. But I do think I can contribute," Rodriguez said.
"I think I can be a force in the middle lineup, a big right-handed bat for our team, but I'm at a different stage of my career. Is it realistic to go out and hit 40, 50 home runs? I don't think so. But can I go out and have nights like I did last night and do that several times a week? I think so."
Rodriguez was referring to his home run in a minor league game in which he went 2-for-4 this week, fueling optimism he could return to the majors possibly next week. He's been 5-for-28 at the plate in the minors.
"It felt incredible," he said of the two-run homer. "I haven't hit a ball like that in over a year."
He's determined to return to Yankee Stadium and won't entertain questions about potential disappointments.
"I'm going to focus on the positive," Rodriguez said. "I feel like I owe the Yankee fan base my A-game. I don't think they had that last year. I went in, I got fixed up, I worked my butt off. And I can't wait to get back in New York and help my team win."
The Yankees' web site reports that Rodriguez expects to be back with the team Monday.
Rodriguez also wants to better engage his fans. He acknowledged how he doesn't grant many one-on-one interviews.
"I've taken the approach of 'less is more,' " he said. "And I've always tried to let my game do the talking. But I think over the last year or so, I've wanted to share more with my fan base. I think that's important. And I'm in a different stage of my career now. I just want to be able to communicate with my fan base.
"First of all, I'd like to thank them for their support. Their support has been overwhelming and it's fueled me," he continued. "This has been a very difficult process, and I'm just humbled by the opportunity to play baseball. I love this game so much. My father played baseball. That's what I know to do. That's my gift. God has given me the greatest gift. And that's what I love to do."
This year's hip surgery was his second -- "almost triple the size of the one I had in '09," he said.
"It was an extensive surgery. They shaved quite a bit off my left labrum, and they put in five anchors," he said.
Despite the injury, he maintains the enthusiasm of "a 10-year-old boy out there playing," he says.
He wants to return to the Yankees pinstripes to solidify his legacy as "someone that loved that game and someone that respected that game and someone that loves teammates, and loves to compete," he said.
"The one thing that no one can take away from me is that the effort that I put forth and how much I love this game," he said.